By Hsu-Ming Teo
The Sheik—E. M. Hull’s best-selling novel that turned a wildly renowned movie starring Rudolph Valentino—kindled “sheik fever” around the Western international within the Nineteen Twenties. A craze for all issues romantically “Oriental” swept via type, movie, and literature, spawning imitations and parodies with no quantity. whereas that fervor has mostly subsided, stories of ardour among Western ladies and Arab males proceed to enthrall readers of today’s mass-market romance novels. during this groundbreaking cultural historical past, Hsu-Ming Teo strains the literary lineage of those wilderness romances and historic bodice rippers from the 12th to the twenty-first century and explores the gendered cultural and political reasons that they have got served at quite a few old moments.
Drawing on “high” literature, erotica, and well known romance fiction and flicks, Teo examines the altering meanings of Orientalist tropes reminiscent of crusades and conversion, abduction by means of Barbary pirates, sexual slavery, the phobia of renegades, the Oriental despot and his harem, the determine of the strong Western concubine, and fantasies of break out from the harem. She analyzes the influence of imperialism, decolonization, sexual liberation, feminism, and American involvement within the center East on women’s Orientalist fiction. Teo means that the increase of female-authored romance novels dramatically remodeled the character of Orientalism since it feminized the discourse; made white girls valuable as manufacturers, shoppers, and imagined actors; and revised, reversed, or collapsed the binaries inherent in conventional analyses of Orientalism.
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Extra info for Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels
The princesses are also a far cry from the veiled, silenced, and submissive odalisque sequestrated in the harem, who would come to epitomize European ideas of Muslim women by the eighteenth century (4–6). To a late twentieth and twenty-first century romance readership familiar with resourceful, independent, and assertive heroines, there is something far more appealing in these entrepreneurial Muslim princesses who frankly admit to sexual desire and risk everything « 34 » Desert Passions for love, transgressing gender roles and embarking on epic adventures to achieve a happy ending with their beloved.
This was true of Saracen men as well. Religion apart, the physical and cultural boundaries between Christians and Muslims were remarkably porous in medieval literature. , black skinned and/or giants), many were also presumed to possess the same noble characters as their Christian counterparts. Infidels though they might be, they were nevertheless classified as civilized people endowed with a history, rather than as so-called barbaric tribes “devoid of history, development, and individual distinction” (Augstein x–xi).
As Kahf notes, in crusade tales Muslim Saracens and Christian Franks bear marked similarities to each other: “They not only have the same equipment, but also the same values, the same concepts of shame and honor, the same type of feudal hierarchy” (24). Muslim women might be depicted as powerful, overbearing, loquacious queens, but such traits were condemned as unfeminine by Muslims and Christians alike. When a Muslim woman converted to Christianity because she fell in love with the Christian hero, she was incorporated into the universal gender order espoused by Europeans: she was silenced and became submissive to men (Kahf 36–38).